"Today, Lee McQueen is coming home." Those were the words Martin Roth, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, used to greet press at a preview Thursday for the museum's electrifying new exhibit, "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty." "He loved the V&A and London so much that we feel very, and understandably, emotional about this exhibit," he added.
In his introductory remarks, Roth went on to praise the current McQueen team, namely CEO Jonathan Akeroyd and Creative Director Sarah Burton, for giving the museum unfettered access to the archives. It was from there, as well as from show sponsor Swarovski and McQueen's close friends Annabelle Neilson and stylist Katy England, that the museum was able to expand on New York's unprecedentedly popular Metropolitan Museum of Art version in 2011 with 66 additional pieces.
The exhibit is divided up into four rooms, each covering an epoch of McQueen's career, and giving patrons glimpses into his tortured, brilliant mind. The first section centers on London, focusing on the low-budget, provocative shows he staged there. The next, "A Romantic Mind," zeroes in on tailoring. Then, it trods down the dark and darker times of "A Gothing Mind," "Romantic Primitivism" and "Romantic Nationalism." The whole journey comprises key elements of McQueen's oeuvre: the "Highland Rape" collection, "The Hunger" collection, "The Birds" collection — all charted by the direction McQueen's mental health was taking along the way.
My jaw dropped when I came to the exhibit's penultimate room, the "Cabinet of Curiosities," a double-height display of McQueen's most subversive pieces, arranged as if in an apothecary cupboard. Twenty-seven screens simultaneously play his unforgettable catwalk shows and a haunting, eerie soundtrack adds to the overall vibe. Not chilling enough? One room away, encased in an odd triangle, is a near life-size Kate Moss hologram: a technical vision of a woman in ethereal white layers coming alive from a single speck, a mere dot.
This is moving, even for those who are not enamored with the supermodel. It's also the kind of experience patrons are likely to tell their friends about — not that the V&A needs the extra promotion. Roth tells us that over 70,000 tickets have been sold already.
Browse photos from the exhibition below. "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" will be on view from March 14 to Aug. 2.